Tag Archive | Books

Five-Star Reads: 2012 Edition

A few stats on my reading in 2012, according to my GoodReads account.

  • Total books read: 122 (up 13 from 2011)
  • Books for Kids: 49 (down 13 from 2011), 40% of total
  • Books for Teens: 49 (up 18 from 2011), 40% of total
  • Books for Grown-Ups: 24 (up 11 from 2011), 20% of total
  • Library Books: 92 (up 15 from 2011), 75% of total
  • ARCs (including E-ARCs): 21 (up 5 from 2011), 17% of total
  • E-Books (including E-ARCs): 19 (up 5 from 2011), 16% of total

Just like in 2011, I’m resisting the urge to create a list of the Top 10 Books I Read in 2012 or somesuch thing. Instead, I give you the 26 books I gave 5 star ratings on GoodReads in 2012.

Books for Kids (15):

Storybound (Storybound #1) by Marissa Burt The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis Bink and Gollie, Two for One by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee Sadie and Ratz by Sonya Hartnett The Elephant Scientist by Caitlin O'Connell Wonder by R.J. Palacio Above World (Above World, #1) by Jenn Reese Blackout by John Rocco May B. by Caroline Starr Rose Drawing from Memory by Allen Say The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict (The Mysterious Benedict Society, #0.5) by Trenton Lee Stewart Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy's Parade by Melissa Sweet Path of Beasts by Lian Tanner Diego Rivera: His World and Ours by Duncan Tonatiuh 8 Class Pets + 1 Squirrel [Divided By] 1 Dog = Chaos by Vivian Vande Velde

Books for Teens (8):

Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin, #1)by Robin LaFevers  (37 Things I Love (in no particular order) by Kekla Magoon Incarnate (Newsoul, #1) by Jodi Meadows A Million Suns (Across the Universe, #2) by Beth Revis Under the Never Sky (Under the Never Sky, #1) by Veronica Rossi Past Perfect by Leila Sales Drama by Raina Telgemeier

Books For Grown-Ups (3):

Nina Here Nor There: My Journey Beyond Gender by Nick Krieger The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson

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Book Review: Cold Cereal by Adam Rex

He steered toward the local park, down the storm drain shortcut he’d discovered yesterday, dodging broken glass and a man with a rabbit head, up the embankment toward the gap in the fence, and — was that a man with a rabbit head?

Cold Cereal
Cold Cereal by Adam Rex
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Life for Scott Doe has always been a little odd, from his full name (Scottish Play Doe) to his mom’s new job with Goodco (what does a cereal company need with a physicist?) and the family’s recent move to the company town of Goodborough. So, maybe he just should have expected to start seeing weird things, like a man with a rabbit head in the park.

Erno and Emily Utz have always lived in Goodborough, in the same house but with a series of foster parents. Their current foster father regularly gives them tests in the form of brain-teasing puzzles. (Emily always solves them first.) Erno has never really thought about the reason behind the tests, but he is just about to find out.

In the town of Goodborough, very little is really as it seems, and there are goings-on that (literally) the people don’t see. Erno, Emily, and Scott are more important than they know, and there are forces at work that would love to keep them from discovering the truth about themselves, the town, and Goodco.


Rex brings his trademark satiric sensibility to this fantasy mystery for the middle grades. From Scott’s dad – John Doe – to the Goode and Harmliss Toasted Cereal Company to Merle Lynn (C.P.A.), the puns come fast and furious, along with delightfully twisted takes on cereal commercials, conspiracy theories, and Arthurian mythology.  The shifting third-person perspective includes Scott, Erno, and an unnamed narrator who provides some background information and sometimes cracks just a bit too wise. When focused on the kid’s-eye view, Rex excels; when he zooms out, the lighthearted wit gets bogged down. (In The True Meaning of Smekday, Tip’s first-person “essay” narration keeps the story a bit more grounded, if I can use the word “grounded” in relation to a story of aliens coming to Earth and relocating the human population of North America to Florida.)

I thoroughly enjoyed trying to solve the riddles alongside Erno and Scott, although I wasn’t quite clever enough. My e-ARC includes incomplete artwork (as did the paper ARC I thumbed through at ALA Midwinter), so I am looking forward to seeing the final product. The illustrations I could see were just the right complement to the text; I expect good things to come. There are even a few sneak peeks available at the author’s blog (KoKoLumps, anyone?)! By the book’s end, the immediate crisis has been solved, but there is a wide opening for the next volume in the planned trilogy.

On shelves February 7, 2012.


Final Word:
Fantasy, mystery, and satirical humor all swirled together in a tasty treat for middle grade readers (and maybe some grown-ups, too).


e-ARC via NetGalley, provided by the publisher by request.



View all my reviews

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2011 Cybils Finalists

The Cybils Finalists have been announced!

There are great books on these lists, and I’m not just saying that because I helped make the one for Middle Grade Fiction. (Speaking of which, if you followed the link from there to Points West to here, Hi! Thanks for coming by!) I was happy to see that one of my very favorite apps – The Monster at the End of this Book – is a finalist in Book Apps.

Winners to be announced on February 14th. I can hardly wait!

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One More 5-Star Read

Welcome to Bordertown

Here’s the trouble with putting out that 5-Star List before the year actually ends. I should have known I’d end up adding one more!

Just as well, since I think Welcome to Bordertown deserves special attention, anyway.

The first three Bordertown anthologies – Borderland, Bordertown, and Life on the Border – came out in the mid-80s and very early 90s, just early enough to have passed out of print right at the time I would have loved them as a teen. (The Essential Bordertown came out later and is still in print, so I don’t really have any excuse for having missed it.) So, I’m a latecomer to the party. The one good thing about that is that I have some great books to track down and read now, and it looks like the editors are working on getting e-book editions out.

This is an absolutely fantastic collection. There’s a bit of everything: short stories, poems, a comic, even a faerie jump rope chant. My expectations were high going in, since the list of contributors includes some really big names, and I was not disappointed. My personal favorite was Tim Pratt‘s “Our Stars, Our Selves”. I love when an anthology introduces me to a great author I somehow missed. I love the whole world of Bordertown.

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Cybils Round 1 Judge A while back, the call went out for judges for this year’s Cybils. Since this blog has clearly shifted from being a craft blog to more of a kidlit blog, I went ahead and threw my hat in the ring.

I’m a first round judge for Middle Grade Fiction, along with these fantastic bloggers:

Colby Sharp at Sharp Read 
Jennifer Donovan at 5 Minutes for Books 
Karen Yingling at Ms. Yingling Reads 
Cheryl Vanati at Reading Rumpus
Grier Jewell at Fizzwhizzing Flushbunker
Michael Gettel-Gilmartin at Middle Grade Mafioso .

Now, I love kids’ fiction, as you can tell by looking through my reviews. (Good thing, too, what with the being a Children’s Librarian. It’s a lot easier to make book recommendations when you read a lot of books!) I’ve read a few of this year’s nominees already, but I have stacks of books coming my way via the library’s holds system.

I’ve been spacing out my reviews on this blog, posting kids’ books on Tuesdays and YA books on Thursdays. With so many books coming in, if I keep that up, I’ll end up with once-weekly reviews scheduled through the end of next year. That seems… excessive. So, those of you on the other side of the screen, what do you think? Should I start posting them more often? (And, no, I don’t see myself posting a review for every single nominee. There just aren’t that many hours in the day.)

This does also mean that the Challenges I signed up for back at the beginning of the year are on hold. I’ve read seven of my original 12 titles for the Debut Author Challenge, with one more of those currently in the TBR-for-Cybils queue. I hit my 12 titles (and then some) for the E-Book Challenge back in April. The Off the Shelf Challenge, sadly, has suffered this year. I’ve read one book from my Challenge List. Whoops. I don’t see myself making up any ground there before December.

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Top 10 Dystopias

Have you read today’s entry at A Fuse #8 Production? I only managed to read the first few items before I got lost in Books for Keeps and Geraldine Brennan’s article on Ten of the Best Dystopian Novels. What can I say? I enjoy a good dystopian tale, and I haven’t read all of these.

Actually, I haven’t read most of these. (Always seems to be the way with these book lists, even with the number of books I read.) Unwind was excellent in a very creepy sort of way. (Also, Unwind is the name of my local yarn store, for an added dimension of weird.)

I loved the Last Survivors books, but they’re not twins… it’s a trilogy. Or perhaps triplets, since the first two are companion novels that take place at the same time, with This World We Live In as a sequel to both of them. (That sequel was one of those books that I waited and waited and WAITED for the release date. I kept checking Pfeffer’s blog for updates.)

Matched is on my (very long) TBR list, and it looks like I’m going to have to add Mortal Engines and possibly The Wolves of Willoughby Chase.

But, hey, where’s The Hunger Games? What titles would you want to see on the list?

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Book Review: Science Fair Season by Judy Dutton

Science Fair Season: Twelve Kids, a Robot Named Scorch . . . and What It Takes to Win

Science Fair Season: Twelve Kids, a Robot Named Scorch . . . and What It Takes to Win by Judy Dutton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book Source: E-ARC via NetGalley, by reviewer’s request


Fact: I was never part of a Science Fair. It’s one of those things that I’m a little sad to have missed out on. But Dutton offers a chance to live vicariously through some kids who are really part of the Science Fair scene. Twelve students are profiled in individual chapters, which alternate between a student (as of the book’s writing) headed for the 2009 Intel International Science Fair after winning a qualifying local competition and a participant in a previous year who has become Science Fair Legend. Their projects are not simple baking soda volcanoes or skin cells under microscopes; these are kids who have done things like build a nuclear reactor or create a home heating system out of salvaged materials.

Dutton takes the reader deep into the world of the Science Fair, interviewing not only the students, but also parents, teachers, and mentors. The young scientists reveal themselves to be teenagers much like their less scientifically-inclined peers, just kids with some quirky interests and an uncommon drive to explore. If you think you know what a Science Fair – or a Science Fair entrant – is all about, this book may surprise you. An entertaining and informative peek into the lives of the next generation of scientific discovery for teens and adults alike.

View all my reviews

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Picture Book Picks: From Sheep to Sweater

I’ve been working on a big project in the Picture Book section at my library lately. It’s made me think about the fact that you can find a picture book for just about any topic you can imagine. Including, of course, knitting. And spinning. And weaving. (I haven’t found crochet yet, but I’m sure I will.)

Being me, I was drawn to the yarny yarns. Want to hear about a few of them? Of course you do! You know, books make fantastic holiday presents for the kids (and adults, for that matter) in your life. I checked all of these out from my library for review. The Amazon links don’t net anything for me, in case anyone is wondering, since they’re not affiliate links.

The Surprise by Sylvia Van Ommen.

Originally published in the Netherlands as Verrassing, this is a wordless picture book. That’s right, no words, just pictures. Give this one to a pre-reader and have her tell you what’s happening as a scooter-riding sheep turns her own wool into a special sweater for a friend. From shearing to spinning to knitting, it’s all there in the brightly-colored gouache illustrations.

Feeding the Sheep, by Leda Schubert, with pictures by Andrea U’Ren

Step by step, through the seasons of a year, a mother transforms her sheep’s wool into a sweater for her daughter. In each watercolor spread, the little girl asks, “What are you doing?” and gets a brief explanation. By the end of the book, the little girl is ready to take on the tasks herself. This one is especially good for a spinner-to-be.

Farmer Brown Shears his Sheep: a Yarn about Wool, by Teri Sloat, with illustrations by Nadine Bernard Westcott.

This adorable book is the third in a series about Farmer Brown, and it seems to be sadly out of print. After being shorn and left with only fuzz in the chilly Spring air, the sheep follow Farmer Brown around as he takes the wool to be dyed and spun into yarn. The perplexed sheep end up tangled in the yarn before Farmer Brown realizes what’s going on, but all ends happily once he knits each of them a colorful, comfy cardigan to wear. The bouncy rhythm and easy rhyme, plus the giggle-inducing pictures, make this a winning picture book, so I’m sad to see that it’s only available through third-party sellers on Amazon, and not at all at Powell’s. Get it second-hand, or check it out from your local library to share.

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